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  • Tuesday, February 15, 2011


    OUSD embraces DATA

    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE

    a news service of Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Independent insight into OUSD

    Move over Blackboard…
    OUSD embraces DATA at the January Board meeting

    “What is your quest” “To seek the Holy Grail”
    “What is your favorite color?” “Blue” “Right, off you go”.

    – Sir Lancelot’s exchange with the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    Lieutenant Commander Data is a fictional character in the legendary Star Trek series. Data is an android -a robot or synthetic organism designed to look and act like a human. In the popular science fiction series, Data experienced ongoing difficulties with understanding various aspects of human behavior. Unable to understand or feel any emotion, Lt. Data is inspired to strive to be human, even eventually adding an “emotion chip”. Over the course of his story Data was to evolve to become more and more human. Data however would never quite make it. Now like its fictional namesake, as reality imitates pop-culture, educational elites newest fad in education is the non-emotional android-like quest simply called Data.

    At the January 20, 2011 Orange Unified School Board Meeting, OUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Educational Service Dr. Marie Gunn Hansen presented Information Item 13 B- Using data for Academic Achievement- OUSD’s newest exercise in reaching educations Holy Grail- increasing standardized test scores and closing the racial and social-economic “achievement gap”- all by 2014.

    Prior to Dr. Hansen’s presentation during Information Item 13 A’s report on OUSD’s Strategic Plan, OUSD Superintendent Dr Renae Dreier gave the OUSD Trustees a “Data dump” in the form of oversized notebooks filled with information on the Strategic Plan. Commenting on the large amount of Data she had given the Trustees, and as an ironic but unintended segue into Dr. Hansen’s presentation; Dreier reassured the Trustees that “Data is used by people in different ways”. As she so often does, Dreier summed up a concept with few words. Dreier put a human face on Data. However, the night was young.

    Dreier’s human Data is a stark contrast to the newest educational fad that the Educational Elite are now pursuing that they call Data. Like the lords of old living off the land farmed by others, the new Data Aristocracy is directing the lower classes to “mine” the Data aimed at finding the Holy Grail- higher standardized test scores and closing the achievement gap. The Data Fad however, lacks evidence (Data is not “evidence” although Data Diva’s like to use them interchangeably). As with many edu-fads, Data was started by marketing. Retail marketing. Yes, the same people who brought you former OUSD Superintendent Godley’s business model of Good to Great that featured such business stars as Circuit City and the soon to be dismantled Fannie Mae. As many of you long time community Board Watchers know, and as some of our Trustees exhibited knowledge of, the devil is still in the details when examining reports given at Board meetings.

    The Data mining industry got its start in retail sales and since has been applied to numerous areas like bioinformatics to counter-terrorism (the Patriot Act basically gives the Federal government the authority to Data Mine in every part of life). The concept of Data Mining is to take (mine) huge amounts (the more the better) of Data (not evidence) to get something useful from it. Data became a hot commodity when Wal-Mart used real time inventory controls called on time/on line data inventory to overtake and bury retail giant competitors Sears and Montgomery Wards. Wal-Mart used its inventory control to wrangle price concessions from its distributors. Sears was eventually bought by K Mart and Wards imploded. Educational Consultants often turn to the saying “An entrepreneur is a person who dreams up a product that no one knows they need”. Data mining became hot in education consulting, a product that nobody knew they needed. In 2006, New York City spent $80 million educational tax dollars to “datatize” Beginning in June of 2006, Compton Unified (where OUSD Dr. Marie Hansen worked before OUSD), started to spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of School Library Improvement Block Grant Budget monies, not on books, but for a product called Data Driven Classrooms run by Educational Consultant Richard Church. Church’s small consultant company, with only a handful of employees, services Compton’s “data” under the Data Driven Classrooms brand. So pervasive is the consultant relationship, that the former head of Compton Unified’s Information Technology, Dr. Mark Jones provides a testimonial on the website of Data Driven Classrooms -a paid district consultant(see link). Jones is no longer the information director, and now serves as principal of Compton’s Walton Middle School.

    Education Data Mining (EDM) is one of the fastest growing business opportunities in education, despite the fact that the practical side of Data as a classroom tool is under debate. Four years ago, the Educational Data Aristocracy started holding an annual conference called the Educational Mining Conference. This year it meets in July in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Unfortunately like the androids looking for humanism, Data Elitists are in search of practical applications for the emotionless Data in the very human practice of education. The current wave of consultant driven spending on Data systems is far ahead of the practical applications of Data. Here is an example of the work of the Educational Elites Data work that is far removed from the classroom:

    Beck and Mostow obtained data for each student’s performance in reading each story within the software. Reading time was used as a continuous measure of word knowledge; mis-reading and help-requests were also taken into account, reading opportunities where these behaviors occurred were assigned a time of 3.0 seconds (99.9% of word reads were faster than 3.0 seconds). An exponential model of practice was set up, relating response time to the function: time=A*e-b (w=t1 = t2)

    In this equation, parameter A represents student performance on the first opportunity to read a given word, parameter b represents the overall speed of learning, e is 2.718, and t1 and t2 represent the number of times the word is read, within two different types of practice. In this case, t1 was defined as the number of times the word was read when re-reading a story and t2 was defined as the number of times the word was read when reading a story for the first time. W is the relative speed gain associated with the two types of practice. If W equals 1, the two types of practice are considered to be equally effective; if W is above 1, opportunities of type t1 are more effective than opportunities of type t2 (and the reverse holds true if W is below 1).*

    *Data Mining for Education Ryan S.J.d. Baker, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

    Lieutenant Commander Data, does that compute?

    In her January 20 description to the OUSD Board on how OUSD teachers are to use Data, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Marie Gunn Hansen tried to explain the process that OUSD uses Data. Hansen infused the Data Mining into the Cycle of Instruction, implying that the practice is widespread in OUSD. Many Educational Elitists have compared this use of Data to the medical profession (a now common, but faulty comparison as explained below).

    In Hansen’s model, the assessments are the pre-state standards tests (these are the essential standards usually- which are the standards with the highest propensity to appear on the state standardized tests- yes this is teaching to the test “standards deconstruction”…but it is not called that). The teachers (i.e. lower class statisticians) then mine the “Data” from the tests and find out what a student did not answer correctly (i.e. does not know) then re-teach it. While this seems all nice and neat in a one hour sci-fi series, according to OUSD teachers and administrator sources, the reality is (among many other problems) time. For unlike sci-fi characters, teachers and students do not live in warp time. Listening to the long detailed vernacular explanation that Dr. Hansen had about the process and it would appear that she does not understand that simple concept of time. However, to Trustee Diane Singer, that concept was clear. Crystal clear. Trustee Singer interrupted Dr. Hansen with that exact question, How long does the process take? Hansen replied anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks. Clearly, that is the problem. The problem with Data, the problem with the model, the problem with the medical analogy and the problem teachers and administrators are having dealing with as the Data Divas push the Data fallacy to find applications for their massive spending projects. We have given you the tools- now go and figure out how to use them... in a timely manner.

    Time does not stop. The Cycle of Instruction cannot use the infusion of Data (as assessment) efficiently, nor can any humans on a short term basis. During those 6-8 weeks, time, standards and instruction continue. Most people have waited those long hours for a doctor’s test results ( an analogy now often compared to the Education Data Mining) to return from the lab. The doctor examines the Data (lab results), the doctor then can prescribe the medicine (re-adjusts teaching). The fallacy of course is with the time. Imagine if that process took eight weeks instead of the two hours. Life goes on- or so you hope. In the classroom, instruction goes on. For many subjects, returning to lessons from 15-20 weeks ago (lessons plus Cycle of Instruction time) are not practical. Our society has long ago accepted that not everything taught will be retained-unless of course you are an android with a memory chip. While elementary teachers appear to have more use for limited Data on individual students in a contained classroom, secondary teachers report that to learn individual needs for hundreds of students is unrealistic in the human world. Wal-Mart was able to use Data because the Data was digressed by computers that did the ordering. Humans did not digest the Data. It was automatic. Teaching is human and done in human time- not in milliseconds.

    Trustee Kathy Moffat, a former teacher, commented after Hansen’s presentation that she could not teach today because of all of the work (i.e. time) that is expected. Moffat is right, no one could, which is why that fact they are should tell her something. No one can. In the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, people nodded and smiled- all while knowing the truth. Dr. Dreier knows the truth- “Data is used by people in different ways”. According to administrative and teacher sources in OUSD, the Cycle of Instruction model of Data to the extent that Dr. Hansen implied is science fiction. Moffat also asked for a demonstration of Data Director- the district’s Data information system. Sources in the teacher’s association report that OUSD’s Data Director is so time consuming-it is voluntary.

    We applaud Moffat and Singer for asking the right questions. Educational Elitists, like Dr. Hansen now appears to be, are now, consciously or not, trying to take emotional human teachers like Kathy Moffat, and turn them into teacher Data Droids- a robotic organism designed to look and act like a teacher- but work like time=A*e-b (w=t1 = t2).

    The good news is, if you know the story of Star Trek, you know who wins. The question is how many educational tax dollars will be wasted on the battle before this newest educational fad is assigned to the trash heap. Move over Blackboard.

    FOR more information CLICK ON:


    INSIDE the February 17, 2011 OUSD Board Meeting
    Closed Session -

    Agenda Item 4 C- former Killerfer School Site- report on negotiations for sale or lease in Closed Session.

    Open Session
    Agenda Item 13 B Response to Instruction and Intervention Congress changed the law about identifying children with specific learning disabilities when they reauthorized IDEA. This is how districts are dealing with that change.

    Agenda Item 13 C- Budget Update The California State Budget depends on high stakes political dealings on a Special Election to extend the current state tax rates. Expect the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the report from OUSD’s Deputy Assistant Superintendent Michael Christensen.

    Agenda Item 14 F- With agreement from the two labor unions, the district will require a 50 Year vesting policy to receive a post-retirement employer contribution instead of the normal 5 year requirement under the new CAL-PERS Health plans.

    INSIDE the OUSD Budget
    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2011: $ 0
    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2010: $ 395,000
    2010 Attorney Fee Tally:
    5/27/10 Dannis, Woliver & Kelley $ 30,000
    5/27/10 Parker & Covert $ 55,000
    5/27/10 Parker & Covert (to 6/11) $300,000
    2010 CSBA-Trustees and Superintendent: $ 10,000
    TOTAL $ 395,000
    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2009: $1,041,000

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2008: $901,200.00

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2007: $704,090.00*

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2006: $849,717.00*
    2006 Administrative Conference/Travel: Total $ 18,317 *

    * JUNE 8th, 2006 Trustees VOTE to Give OUSD Superintendent the power to
    APPROVE OUSD Travel Requests taking this item OUT of the PUBLIC AGENDA

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars approved in 2005: $978,300.00

    Former Superintendent Godley’s Retirement Bonus running total (beginning 8/2008):
    * The Godley Retirement Bonus presented here is an estimate of the amount in “bonus retirement” accrued since the Superintendent’s retirement on 6/30/08 using a 6% lifetime formula calculated here at $1210 a month since 8/08. The actual retirement plan the former OUSD Superintendent opted to take is not public information and the figures presented are only as an estimate of the taxpayer costs after the OUSD trustees voted against an amendment to exclude Godley from the retirement program. The on-going estimated figure is presented as a reminder to the community of the high cost in educational tax dollars the OUSD Board vote to allow the former Superintendent to participate in the 6% retirement incentive cost the OUSD education community in tax dollars. Godley retired from OUSD on June 30, 2008 after he worked for the school district for a little over five years.

    THURSDAY February 17, 2011 OUSD BOARD ROOM
    CLOSED SESSION- 5:30 pm

    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE
    Independent insight into OUSD
    is an independent news service of /O/N/N/
    “Independent Local Insight"

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